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Here's why Tata is setting up EV charging stations
It may be less than a decade and a half away, but 2032 is coming, as are electric vehicles. It's the year earmarked by the authorities that be for complete electrification of vehicles of all sorts. The idea is bright, but fact is, we're still far away from where we need to be in terms of EVs and their supporting infrastructure. India, as it stands, has access to only two fully-electric cars and two plug-in hybrids.
None of them wear a Tata badge.
And yet, Tata Power has jumped headfirst into the EV infra game by opening its first charging station, in Mumbai. Located inside its power substation in the suburb of Vikhroli, the station boasts of three Mass-Tech chargers -- one 10kWh fast charger (juices up a Mahindra e2o Plus from 0 to 100 per cent in 90 minutes) and two 3.7kWh standard chargers (about eight hours for a full charge). The process is delightfully simple: park in the designated slot, plug your car in, swipe the Tata smart card and charging will commence. The whole thing takes less than a minute.
But who is going to use these? According to Tata estimates, there are only around 300 EV owners in Mumbai, a group that'll doubtless swell, but is, at this time, a true minority.
Thing is, Tata wants the first-mover advantage. With carmakers announcing their desire to electrify their line-ups (cc: Volvo, Maserati, Mahindra) and the shadow of Tesla looming large, Manasvi Manas Sharma, Head of Strategy at Tata Power, believes that eventually, the numbers will rise -- and quickly.
'This is an initiative we're taking with an eye on the future. We want to lead. We don't want to follow. With the focus now shifting to electric cars for most car manufacturers, the number of people who will need a charging station is going to grow, and we want to be ready for when the surge begins.'
Tata is looking at opening 1,000 such charging stations in Delhi, where the EV population is significantly higher. More points will come up in Mumbai, but Sharma won't be drawn into the specifics. 'We shall study the feedback, and as and when the market grows, we'll be ready to meet the demand', he says. How much feedback Tata gains from a station located in a secluded part of the city, and from a research group not bigger than King Leonidas' army, remains to be seen.
Sharma says the cost of topping up an EV is roughly Rs 12-15 per unit of electricity, but charging at Tata's station will cost even less. And if you're an e2o Plus/eVerito owner living close by, that's good news.
All said and done, this is a huge investment for a project that is unlikely to bring any short-term gains. But if a city like Mumbai is to have 50,000 charging points over the next ten years, Tata Power wants to be in charge of a majority of them. And for that, it needs to start today. After all, 2032 is only 14 years, 4 months and 8 days away.